Lent 1A. Trinity Cathedral. Every year, on this First Sunday of Lent, we have the Gospel account of Jesus’ Temptations in the wilderness. It makes perfect sense because, as we prepare to enter our 40 period of prayer and fasting, we will want to remember why Christians do this every year. We fast and pray because our Lord did, and our deepest desire is to live our lives in “imitation of Christ!”
But it’s a bit of a stretch for most of us to see ourselves tempted as he was during those 40 days. Confronted directly by the Evil One and tempted to turn stones into bread, to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, to worship the devil himself in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. I don’t believe any of us are tempted like that!
Oh, we have our own temptations…often related to power or sex or money and Jesus’ responses to his tempter are still instructive for us: We don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Don’t put the Lord your God to the test. Worship the Lord your God and serve only him. Those responses will stand us in good stead however we’re tested.
But I think often our temptations today are, more likely, ones of apathy. We’re often tempted just not to care very much. Not to care about spending time with our God in prayer and learning more by reading the Bible or other spiritual literature. Not to care about getting ourselves to church except maybe once a month or so because we’re so busy or so tired. Not to care much about inviting our friends or neighbors to church or to church activities.
But more important than any of these: not to care about making some kind of a difference in this world for God! The traditional spiritual practices for Christians during Lent, our Presiding Bishop reminded us this week in her Lenten message, are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And we have a God-given opportunity this Lent not only to learn more about prayer in our Wednesday night classes, to meditate during our Wednesday Noonday organ recitals, and to exercise our spiritual muscles by fasting, by “giving something up for Lent,” but we also have an opportunity literally to “give alms to the poor.”
The Diocese of Iowa and Trinity Cathedral, challenged by our Sunday School and Youth Group, have joined the “Rebuild Our Church in Haiti” campaign to rebuild Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince so there will always be a place people can go during times of trouble. When the January 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, people turned to our church. They knew they would find help there even though nearly all the church buildings, including Holy Trinity Cathedral were reduced to rubble. The Bishop, other clergy and Cathedral staff, offered what food and water they had. They handed out tents until all the tents were gone.
You may, or may not, know that Haiti has the numerically largest diocese of The Episcopal Church. It is home to nearly 100,000 Episcopalians with 97 parishes and 200 schools. In 2008 the Diocese celebrated over 200 baptisms and 700 confirmations. Per capita income there is about $480 a year!
Bishop Zache Duracin, whom I have known for over 20 years, along with the clergy and people of his diocese “have been rising to meet their extraordinary challenges in amazing and inspiring ways,” according to Bishop Pierre Whalon, who visited Haiti recently. “For the past year, volunteers from all over the world have streamed there to help, and money has been collected and wisely spent. Help for all Haitians to recover has come not only through the world’s governments, but more importantly through many non-governmental actors like Episcopal Relief and Development and Caritas.”
“But now the rebuilding needs to start. The Episcopalians of Haiti are starting at their heart in Port-au-Prince, the (Holy Trinity) cathedral complex, so they can gather the strength to rebuild the remaining 80 percent of their physical assets lost in the 2010 earthquake. Rebuilding the (cathedral) complex will not only give a new spiritual center for Haiti, it will also put back the music school with its orchestra, a trade school, a K through 12 school, and an institute for handicapped children…Just this alone will give the entire capital (city) a shot in the arm.” (Whalon)
As your Announcement Bulletin indicates today, we plan to participate in this campaign starting today and running through Sunday May 29. Our Sunday School children will put coins and bills into a jar each Sunday and there will be a display table and jar in the Great Hall for each of us to give what we can in that way. There are envelopes in the pews in case you would like to make a contribution by checks made out to Trinity Cathedral and marked “for Haiti.” That way we can keep a record of your contribution.
Our Youth Group will be sponsoring a couple of special fund raising events to support this effort and we may even have a final festive meal at the end of the campaign late in May to wrap things up. Each brick to rebuild Holy Trinity Cathedral costs $10. Obviously, that means $100 would buy 10 bricks, $500 fifty bricks, and $1,000 100 bricks. The Diocese of Iowa has set a goal of $50,000 to be raised over these next 12 weeks.
It’s interesting to me that, in our recent parish survey, amidst all the concerns about the internal life of our congregation, among the top five priorities for people under 35 years old and for those over 65 years old was to “develop ministries that work toward healing those broken by life circumstances.” It is hard for me to imagine people more “broken by life circumstances” than our sister and brother Episcopalians in the Diocese of Haiti. We have, of course, been moved in recent weeks and even hours by more devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and now Japan. Relief efforts will need to be mounted there too, but at least there is an economic base in those countries, and the per capita income more than $480 a year!
And it is hard for me to imagine a simpler and more direct way for us to respond to the people of Haiti than by generously supporting this “brick by brick” campaign to “Rebuild our Church” there.” So, as you pray and fast this Lent – pray for Haiti and fast in order to give. There is no reason to give in to the temptation to apathy.
We can, dear friends, make a difference! Will you help?